Joan Jett and The Blackhearts Bad Reputation Nation

September 2013 News

Page updated on September 30, 2013
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Review: JOAN JETT rocks on new studio album 'Unvarnished'

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Rock music sensation JOAN JETT will release their latest studio effort "Unvarnished" on September 30 via BLACKHEART RECORDS, which is Jett's first album in seven years.

Throughout her musical career, which spans over three decades, Jett is known for such classic hits as "I Love Rock N' Roll," "I Hate Myself For Loving You" and her cover of Tommy James' "Crimson and Clover," all of which went to the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.

In the strong opener "Any Weather," she collaborates with Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters and it is followed by the upbeat and catchy "TMI."

Equally noteworthy is "Soulmates to Strangers," meanwhile "Make It Back" contains killer guitar riffs.

"Fragile" is yet another solid track, but the album's highlight is the infectious "Reality Mentality," which is one of her best vocals to date. "Different" showcases her versatility as an artist and the CD closes with the soaring and optimistic ballad "Everybody Needs a Hero."

The Verdict
In summation, veteran rock star JOAN JETT is back with her latest CD "Unvarnished." Her vocals are fresh and captivating and her guitar playing is still remarkable. This collection garners 4 out of 5 stars.

After two nominations for the prestigious Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the past, this will hopefully be the project that will help secure her induction into the coveted Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, where she rightfully deserves to be.

How To Get JOAN JETT's Bone Crunching Rhythm Guitar Sound

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If there's a king and a queen of six-string rhythm crunch, they are AC/DC's Malcolm Young and, of course, JOAN JETT. On Sunday, September 22, Jett celebrated her 55th birthday. And what better way for guitar players to celebrate than to take a shot at recreating her bone shattering Melody Maker-fired sound. Maybe If all of us hit one of the Godzilla-sized E chords she deploys in "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" at midnight on the 22nd, we'd actually be able to tilt the world on its axis. That's how powerful Jett's sound feels.

How did Jett get the King Kong tone on that 1982 smash? Her array of gear was simple and highly effective. Jett played her favorite double cutaway Melody Maker, which she purchased in 1977 and also deployed on the hits "Bad Reputation," which established her solo career, and "Do You Wanna Touch Me." Her amp was a Music Man 212, which were also favored by Aerosmith at the time, stocked with Electro-Voice speakers. No effects, just a straight signal from guitar to amp. However, there was a secret weapon involved â€" a pickup called the Velvet Hammer. These are no longer in production, but were hand built by steel guitarist Red Rhodes, who passed away in 1995 and took his secrets with him. Jett's guitar became the model for Jett's signature Gibson Melody Maker, which went into production in 2008.

Jett was a charter member of the all-female seminal punk-pop outfit the RUNAWAYS before her solo career, and in that band she played a blond Gibson Les Paul Deluxe with the toggle switch positions reversed. Jett used only the guitar's treble pickup, so she kept the switch in the "up" position. That way she could stutter or kill the pick up with a swift downward flip of the switch, for effect. That Les Paul appears on the group's debut, 1976's The RUNAWAYS. By that disc's follow up, the same year's Queens of Noise, Jett had switched to the Melody Maker, due to the Les Paul's weight. This was before Gibson began building weight-relief chambered solid body Les Pauls.

So, back to playing that big E chord. Without a Velvet Hammer, the closest pickup to deliver Jett's tone might be a Burstbucker or something else with plenty of hot drive. That still won't cover the physical element of getting to the Jett sound. She has a pile driver right arm that she uses to smash out chords with great precision. But here are some settings that might get you close. Put a humbucker-equipped guitar on the treble setting and turn the volume open wide. Set an amp with gain up half-way, treble on seven or eight, the mids straight up and the bass a little past that, at six or seven. And fine tune from there, including a hair of reverb. Now go for those down-stroked chords, carefully choking them by resting your wrist where the strings and bridge connect, so they don't ring out.

If you need a little ear candy to hone in on exactly the sound you're looking for, check out these tunes:


THOMMY PRICE Defeats Neil Peart in Drum Battle

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The headline of this article is 50% meant for effect. THOMMY PRICE and Neil Peart have never, to my knowledge, set their drums up face-to-face and had it out.

If you're a Rush fan (and I am, being a both a drummer and a Canadian), I apologize for shocking your system with such a bold statement. But we're going to put some things into perspective with this one.

THOMMY PRICE is as rock solid a drummer as there is.

Give a listen to just a few of his drum parts from the massive catalog of hits that he's played on - including Billy Idol's "Rebel Yell" and JOAN JETT hits galore - and you'll soon realize that the THOMMY PRICE rock groove is in our DNA.

The THOMMY PRICE groove was designed to shake asses. It doesn't require complex time signatures and roto toms. It's solid four-on-the-floor, tom fills, pocket, all swing. And shake asses it does.

And this is the point. If the aforementioned drum battle is only played for those who can appreciate Rush, then half the population is excluded from the vote. Sorry, no girls like Rush. And, not all guys like Rush. I do, but I'm only one vote. And don't ask me to choose. I'm trying to be an impartial referee here.



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It's the rock 'n' roll icon's first album since "SINNER" in 2006.

For four decades, JOAN JETT has been the reigning queen of rock 'n' roll, with now-iconic songs that speak of falling in love, having sex and going to parties. But with age also comes wisdom, as evidenced by the more mature lyrical direction of the 55-year-old rocker's latest album, Unvarnished, out Monday.

"For me, over these past several years, there have been different transitions in life," Jett says. "Learning to grow up beyond just those experiences, and just talking about aspects of life that are different than the joyful (ones)."

Those often painful aspects include loss, growing up, and the sense of responsibility that comes with both -- topics that are wildly different from those addressed in her carefree classics such as Bad Reputation and Do You Wanna Touch Me. "It's not depressing and it's not sad," Jett is quick to say of the new album. "It's just life, you know?"

Unvarnished has been a long time coming for the rock legend, who has toured with her band, the BLACKHEARTS, for the past several years, all the while writing new material. "I went through a bit of a writer's block until I realized that I really just had to sit down and do the work," Jett says. "It doesn't just come pouring out."


Ke$ha Performs with JOAN JETT at iHeartRadio - Watch Now!

Ke$ha goes all out with glitter at the 2013 iHeartRadio Music Festival on Saturday evening (September 21) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nev.

The 26-year-old entertainer performed her hit "Die Young" before she was joined on stage by JOAN JETT to sing the classic "Bad Reputation."

JOAN JETT joins Ke$ha and performs "Bad Reputation" at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

Rock legend JOAN JETT, surprised the crowd when she joined Ke$ha on stage for a memorable performance of her hit song "Bad Reputation!" Joan didn't didn't let us down with her red leather outfit and killer guitar riffs. The collaboration ended with fireworks above the iHeartRadio Music Festival stage and the crowd singing "Happy Birthday" to the rock icon. Check out the performance below!

Riot Fest 2013: The Best of the Fest

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Riot Fest 2013 has now come and gone--and with it, the 2013 festival season. During the weekend, we saw a John Stamos bust made of butter, waited 45 minutes for mac 'n' cheese and found handy uses for plastic on a rain-soaked Day Three. Yet none of it compares to the amazing performances we witnessed and wanted to write home about. Here, in a nutshell, is the best of the fest.

Friday's performances were clearly about messages. Although we had hoped to hear those of high-charged emcee Dessa to start off the day, lovely Chicago traffic stalled us. Message One: Leave home three hours early next time. We did, however, hear the soul baring of alterna slam poet Saul Williams as we entered the park, and later got the message to always party hard from our Male Boxx of the day Andrew W.K. But perhaps the biggest message of the day came from Gwar who used props like crucifix-whipped bleeding assholes and a bruised and bloody Queen of England and the Royal Baby to show their stance on religion and politics. Those up front wore that message for the rest of the day, looking like bleeding hearts for one of our favorites: JOAN JETT.

The teen angst hasn't left JOAN JETT. At 54, the leader of the BLACKHEARTS skulked over her mic and rallied her guitar like she was still a beleaguered Runaway--and teased the crowd with a little "Cherry Bomb" lest they forget it. Dressed in a mix of leather and Chucks, Jett showed little metamorphosis from her rebel punk days--coupled with a set list that included several punchy new songs from her upcoming album Unvarnished (her first in seven years) that proved her songwriting chops haven't waned, either. New tracks like "TMI," "Any Weather" and "Fragile" follow Jett's formula for Ramones-style appetizers that waste no time getting to the punch line and getting out.

Included amongst the freshmen were moneymakers like "I Love Rock 'n' Roll," her cover of "Crimson and Clover," "Bad Reputation" and "Do You Wanna Touch Me," all delivered with sassiness and sprite energy that turned them into dance numbers, too--if not only for those in the sizable crowd sweating off their Gwar-bloodied torsos and fist pumping stuffed dogs won at the carnival. Jett's stage was positioned directly across from the electric lights of the Ferris Wheel, which gave a cotton candy haze of a show on the Boardwalk. The feeling wasn't lost on the singer as she ruminated about being in Long Beach during the time of Hurricane Sandy and dedicated her song "Make It Back Out" to the spirit of rebuilding. After, Jett introduced her special guest for the night, Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!, who helped her perform the new song they wrote together, "Soulmates to Strangers." It was a rarely intimate moment that made a convincing prelude to the gems Jett stashed away on Unvarnished and those yet to come. â€" S.F.

Male Boxx of the Day: Master of party ceremonies Andrew W.K. got the riot started early on Day One with songs that were about partying, sweating and oh yeah, partying. Before the California kid even took the stage, a dubbed announcement sounding oddly like Bill Cosby pumped out a message to the anxious crowd that signaled for them to get their hats on: "Hello everybody, it's time to party." With an ear-to-ear grin that never left his face, W.K. appeared to host the house romp, dressed in his signature stained white uniform that looked like perhaps he was just wrestling in a mud pit to see who would buy the beer for this rager. The things we love about Andrew W.K.: His motivational speeches that make us think he invented the word YOLO, his over abundant guitar supply (we counted 5) that turned this into a near metalocalypse, his Jerry Lee Lewis skills on the keys and his love for women, including giving us the song "She is Beautiful," likely directed at his gorgeous Houserobics wife Cherie Lily with him on stage. Although the band was celebrating its 10th anniversary of The Wolf, most of the night's material was derived from debut I Get Wet, which, let's be real, has the best songs anyway. Before he ended, W.K. left us with one final important message: to always party. "If you party all day, the entire day is nighttime." Mind. Blown. â€" S.F.

Fronted by Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan, charming Canadian indie band Stars were an incongruous but excellent addition to this year's lineup (to the delight of both themselves and the crowd, Stars finally had the perfect opportunity to play their 2007 song, "Take Me to the Riot"). As they stood before a modest but approving crowd, Campbell acknowledged that, while Riot Festgoers might not be their target demographic, the difference between the baleful wail of punk music and the bittersweet whispers of a band like Stars isn't all that vast: "I don't care what type of person you just broke up with," Campbell announced. "Your ex is a fucking asshole." It was a sentiment conveyed repeatedly throughout the weekend, but never as sweetly and melodiously as when sung in harmony by Campbell and Millan. -- K.E.



First impressions are everything, and while some artists aren't successful until their second or third albums, other artists are lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. Fame isn't the same thing as influence, though -- the chances of Honey Boo Boo actually serving as a role model for anyone are slim to none (hopefully). Influence is usually only seen and appreciated in hindsight, but when it's finally noticed, its effects are everlasting.

Here's a look at some of the most influential first impressions of the '80s.

JOAN JETT: Bad Reputation (1981)
What would rock music be without JOAN JETT? Jett had already been establishing herself with the RUNAWAYS, but her debut solo album had her kicking serious ass. Jett helped alter the perceptions of women in rock, proving that hot chicks could rock out without having to prance around half-naked. From Courtney Love to Gwen Stefani, Jett is responsible for an innumerable amount of girls picking up a guitar or microphone and rocking the f**k out.

R.E.M.: Murmur (1983)
Before they were losing their religion, R.E.M. were making history. Murmur had the band not only ushering a totally new genre, but also helping commercialize it. The band was part of the vibrant college rock scene -- most of the bands' support came from American college radio stations, and after slowly winning over the underground, R.E.M. helped take the genre into the mainstream and college rock turned into “alternative rock.”

Run-D.M.C.: Run-D.M.C. (1984)
Run D.M.C.'s ground-breaking self-titled album is known for completely changing the face of hip hop. The group stood out for their sharp raps and sparse production, which was unusual in a time when funk and disco beats dominated the scene. Led by their trademark basic drum-machine, Run D.M.C. pounded out a new, more aggressive form of hip hop that helped commercialize the genre and paved the way for all other rappers to come.


JOAN JETT Opens Up About Her Biggest Transformation Yet And Looks Back On What Could've Been

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As she prepares to release her 18th album, Unvarnished, the legendary rocker chats with BuzzFeed about her other dream jobs, blowing off high school, and her "decade of death."

How does a person stay motivated and excited about her work after nearly 40 years of playing music? Just ask JOAN JETT -- she's got a lot to say on the topic, and she's gonna make sure you hear it. When I spoke with her on the phone about her forthcoming album, Unvarnished, which will be released on her label Blackheart on Oct. 1, she was so erudite, focused, and passionate about her art that I barely got a word in edgewise. And I was only too happy to clam up for a while -- when you're speaking with a music legend with 17 albums under her belt (the first of which was recorded with the seminal group The RUNAWAYS when she was only a teenager), you'd better be listening up, and listening good.

Though you may know some of her history with The RUNAWAYS thanks to the eponymous 2010 movie about the band starring Kristen Stewart, Jett's career has largely hinged on her iconic work as the frontwoman of JOAN JETT AND THE BLACKHEARTS, with whom she has released an extensive and robust catalog of work, beginning with "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" and "Crimson and Clover," and now, her exhilarating new album. And if you think she intends to slow down even a little as she continues her decades-long reign of shreddage, well, you might want to listen a little more closely -- as if she'd give you any other choice.

When was the first time in your life you decided you wanted to be a musician, and what inspired you to do that?
I'd say 12 or 13. I was inspired by lot of the records I was hearing on the radio. At the time, pop radio was very diverse. A rock song like Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" would play right next to a Stevie Wonder song or a Michael Jackson song. I would latch onto them; I just wanted to make those sounds.

But I also wanted to be a lot of different things. I wanted to be an actor, an astrologer, an astronaut; a lot of different things were going through my mind. But I also wanted to play guitar. I mentioned to my parents that I wanted an electric guitar for Christmas. They got me one! I sat there all Christmas morning making a lot of loud horrible noise.


JOAN JETT: Unvarnished interview

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From mumbling at Dave Grohl to yelling at reality TV, it's been an interesting writing process for JOAN JETT this time around.

JOAN JETT is preserved in amber, forever the sleepy-eyed, husky-voiced rocker. She's branded those righteous riffs from her early solo career -- 'I Love Rock'n'Roll', 'Crimson and Clover' and 'Bad Reputation' -- right onto our hides, and if she's trying to make us forget she first slid into a leather bodysuit in 1975, she's going the wrong way about it with her 14th solo album, Unvarnished. While the topics are way more introspective than Jett will usually allow, her dedication to dirty rock'n'roll means it doesn't veer from classic Jett glam stomp or snarling riffage -- just the way legions of fans like it.

This year Jett was honoured at the Sunset Strip Music Festival -- the Strip being the old haunt of 16-year-old Joan Larkin from the 'burbs. The band she went on to form, the RUNAWAYS, were tough teenage girls who vibed on their own sexual power, yet still fell prey to creeps and perves along the way (many of whom were on the payroll). Even so, their unflinching attitude and kickarse live shows turned the groupie haunts of Sunset Strip into an even playing field for the first time.

As underlined by her role of executive producer on the 2010 movie The RUNAWAYS, Jett is very much the custodian of that band's reputation, but now as then, her interests are purely to play rock'n'roll music and stay out of dramas. In that sense, she remains as uncompromising as ever.


Sunset Strip Music Festival Honors JOAN JETT

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Music publishing can be the reason for launching someone's career. In 1976 producer and impresario Kim Fowley, JOAN JETT along with the rest of The RUNAWAYS signed a deal with independent music publishing company Peermusic. Fowley and Jett signed to Peermusic for publishing rights that gained them success in America--notably and most recently "The RUNAWAYS" biopic.

For the past five years the annual Sunset Strip Music Festival honors a musician that has altered the face of the music world. Years prior Slash from Guns and Roses, The Doors and Motley Crue have been named honorees.

When JOAN JETT formed The RUNAWAYS in 1973 she never imagined it would take her so far that decades later not only would she be known as the Queen of Rock and Roll but that she would be honored by the city of West Hollywood and making the first of August officially JOAN JETT Day.

Fans know that Jett has worked hard to be an epic staple in the world of rock-and-roll. At only fifteen, she began a revolution with all girl band The RUNAWAYS--making rock and roll not just a thing for the boys.

In a nostalgia-filled night the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip hosted the once in a lifetime experience. A short video presentation of Fowley began the celebration. Awards and tributes followed the introduction from the rockers friends such as Carmen Electra, Margaret Cho and Rodney Bingenheimer who presented her with a custom Gibson guitar. Witnessed by music supervisors, top executives and ultimately hardcore fans, it was clear that the excitement was geared towards the celebration of the Queen of Rock herself.

The love for the City of Angels and especially Hollywood, still shines in Jett. Her acceptance was bittersweet and humble as she reminisced the crowd about all of what she had to endure throughout her career--including 23 record label rejections with her band The BLACKHEARTS.


JOAN JETT: Life's A Riot

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JOAN JETT is a badass. Big surprise, right? With a tough outer shell protecting a sensitive inner world, she personifies rock 'n' roll. Think about all the definitions or synonyms used to categorize rock 'n' roll: rebellion, youth, wild, loud, anti-establishment, risky, barrier-breaking. Why not just insert Jett's image next to the entry in the dictionary to give a full picture of the art form's meaning? This year marks Jett's 40th year as a musician -- years that aren't visible on her as she celebrates double nickels this month -- and she shows no signs of stopping. If that isn't rebellion, if that isn't risky, then what is?

Unlike today, where it is ingrained in American youth culture, alongside learning the ABCs, to aspire to rock stardom, Jett was born to be wild in a suburb outside Philly in 1958. Her parents bought little Joan Marie Larkin her first guitar at 14, but it wasn't until the family migrated out West that Jett discovered the center of her universe: Rodney Bingenheimer's English Disco. Rodney's was a Los Angeles nightclub on the Sunset Strip from 1972 to 1975 that celebrated glam and glitter rock. It was a place where 12- to 15-year-olds dressed up in platforms, fishnets, blue hair, and black eyeliner; chugged Watney's Red Barrel beer and popped pills; listened to Bowie and Iggy and the Sweet and danced 'til they'd drop. It was here that "JOAN JETT" was born.

Jett formed her first band by the time she was 15. Los Angeles producer Kim Fowley discovered the band at one of their gigs, became their manager, and renamed them The RUNAWAYS. After some lineup changes, the band included Jett on guitar, Cherie Currie as lead singer, Jackie Fox on bass, Lita Ford on guitar, and Sandy West on drums. The novelty of a band made up of five teenage girls landed them a deal pretty quickly with Mercury Records. They played their first official gig at the legendary CBGB's in New York in the fall of 1976.

Jett shared lead vocals with Currie, played rhythm guitar, and wrote or co-wrote many of the band's songs. They toured the world opening for bands like Van Halen, Cheap Trick, and Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers. But when they toured Japan in June of 1977, they sold out arenas by themselves. The Japanese fans ate up songs like "Cherry Bomb," which ended up topping Japanese charts. The band recorded five LPs total, with Live In Japan becoming one of the biggest-selling imports in U.S. and U.K. history.

The rock 'n' roll lifestyle proved too much for certain band members, and The RUNAWAYS ultimately imploded somewhere between 1979 and 1980. Jett, however, remained undaunted. She moved to New York and spent time in the U.K., all in pursuit of a solo career. She recorded three songs there with Sex Pistols' Paul Cook and Steve Jones, one of which was an early version of "I Love Rock 'N' Roll" by Arrows. Then she returned to L.A. to work on a film that was supposed to be loosely based on The RUNAWAYS' career, and it was there that she met songwriter/producer KENNY LAGUNA. The two became friends and decided to work together, so Jett moved near Laguna's home in Long Beach, N.Y.

With Laguna's help, Jett formed the BLACKHEARTS. After a handful of gigs with the initial lineup, a second lineup of the band toured the U.S. and built a following, especially in New York. Jett and Laguna used their own money to press copies of the band's first album, JOAN JETT, and sold them out of the trunk of Laguna's Cadillac after every show. But demand for the record became too intense. That's when Casablanca Records founder Neil Bogart made a deal with Jett and signed her to his new label, Boardwalk Records, then re-released that first album, calling it Bad Reputation. After a year of touring and recording, JOAN JETT AND THE BLACKHEARTS recorded a second album for the new label titled I Love Rock 'N' Roll.

Jett's most successful album to date, I Love Rock 'N' Roll sold over 10 million copies. The title track reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and stayed there for seven straight weeks in 1982. It placed 65 on Billboard's All-Time Top 100 Songs list, and Rolling Stone put it at No. 89 on its roll call of 100 Greatest Guitar Songs.

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